The East Hampton Town Board in a split vote on May 21 denied a zone change that would have made it possible for Cyril’s Fish House on Napeague to create more parking spaces and add seating.
Property owners Michael and Bonnie Dioguardi had asked the Town Board to change the zoning from residential to neighborhood business. They wanted to merge the lot containing the restaurant with a vacant parcel adjacent to it. They planned to create a parking lot to deal with the chronic overflow of parked cars along Montauk Highway. The plan also included increasing the restaurant’s seating capacity from 62 to 92 seats.
The restaurant’s owner, Cyril Fitzsimons, said he was disappointed by the decision but said he would survive without the change. The business preexists zoning.
Attorney Dianne Le Verrier, who represented the Dioguardis, said they don’t plan on challenging the decision.
The application was a controversial one—more than 20 community members spoke against it at a hearing, saying the changes would exacerbate public safety issues, introduce harmful impacts to the environment, and set a bad planning precedent.
Additionally, the business has had at least 65 Town Code violations against it at any given time—charges that deal with expansions of the business, failure to obtain required building permits, no certificates of occupancy and operating in the wrong zone, according to the town’s public safety administrator, Pat Gunn.
Concerned Citizens of Montauk Executive Director Jeremy Samuelson said this week that increasing the size of Cyril’s wouldn’t have made sense because of the issues related to the property, which include traffic congestion on the Napeague stretch. Additionally, he said expansion likely would have had an impact on groundwater because the property is located near wetlands.
“The intensity of use of the location already far exceeds anything that you could ever build a facility large enough for at that location,” he said. “The idea that you are going to solve this problem by making it bigger defies all logic.”
The Town Board was split on the decision—Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley voted yes and board members, Sylvia Overby, Peter Van Scoyoc and Dominick Stanzione, voted no.
According to Councilman Van Scoyoc, the business hasn’t been hurting and has been operating above its capacity. He said granting the zone change would have been rewarding bad behavior, but the most concerning issue was the possibility of setting a precedent for other builders and businesses in the area to build on top of or near wetlands.
But Town Councilwoman Quigley disagreed, saying it would only be following a precedent because other restaurants on the Napeague stretch have expanded over the years and the town did nothing to stop them. Furthermore, she said nothing has been done to address the code issues at Cyril’s for as long as it has been there, 23 years.
“I believe following the precedent is the right thing to do,” she said. “For 20 years the town has failed to come up with a solution. In our very first meeting I said to the planning department, help us solve this problem—the septic, the crowding and the traffic problems—and I think that’s what [the Dioguardis] have been saying to the town for 20-something years. The town has completely failed to address these issues.”